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How understanding copyright can help you as a researcher

By Rafael, on 4 April 2024

Guest post by Christine Daoutis, Copyright Support Officer

Welcome to the inaugural blog post of a collaborative series between the UCL Office for Open Science and Scholarship and the UCL Copyright team. In this series, we will explore important aspects of copyright and its implications for open research and scholarship.

Research ideas, projects, and their outcomes often involve using and producing materials that may be protected by copyright. Copyright protects a range of creative works, whether we are talking about a couple of notes in a notebook, a draft thesis chapter, the rough write-up of a data, a full monograph and the content of this very blog. While a basic knowledge of copyright is essential, particularly to stay within the law, there is much more to copyright than compliance. Understanding certain aspects of copyright can help you use copyright materials with more confidence, make use of your own rights and overall, enhance the openness of your research.

Two stick figures are facing each other. A large red copyright symbol is behind the first one. The first person is holding a document and says: ‘Ah, copyright! I have the right to copy!’. The second person is rubbing their chin and saying: ‘Err…’.

Image attribution: Patrick Hochstenbach, 2014. Available under https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

This first post in our series is dedicated to exploring common questions that arise during research projects. In future posts, we will explore some of these questions further, providing guidance, linking to new resources, and signposting relevant workshops. Copyright-related enquiries often arise in the following areas:

Reusing other people’s materials: How do you GET permission to reuse someone else’s images, figures, software, questionnaires, or research data? Do you always need permission? Is use for ‘non-commercial, research’ purposes always permitted, or are there other factors to consider? How do licenses work, and what can you do when a license does not cover your use? It’s easy to be overconfident when using others’ materials, for example, by assuming that images found on the internet can be reused without permission. It’s equally easy to be too cautious, ending up not making use of valuable resources for fear of infringing someone’s rights. Understanding permissions, licenses, and copyright exceptions – what may be within your rights to do as a user – can help you.

Disseminating your research throughout the research cycle: There are open access options for your publications and theses, supporting access to and often, reuse of your work. How do you license your work for reuse? What do the different licenses mean, and which one is most suitable? What about materials produced early on in your research: study preregistrations, research data, preprints? How can you make data FAIR through licensing? What do you need to consider when making software and other materials open source?

Is your work protected in the first place? Documents, images, video and other materials are usually protected by copyright. Facts are not. For a work to be protected it needs to be ‘original’. What does ‘original’ mean in this context? Are data protected by copyright? What other rights may apply to a work?

Who owns your research? We are raising questions about licensing and disseminating your research, but is it yours to license? What does the law say, and what is the default position for staff and students at UCL? How do contracts, including publisher copyright transfer agreements and data sharing agreements, affect how you can share your research?

‘Text and data mining’. Many research projects involve computational analysis of large amounts of data. This involves copying and processing materials protected by copyright, and often publishing the outcomes of this analysis. In which cases is this lawful? How do licences permit you to do, exactly, and what can you do under exceptions to copyright? How are your text and data mining activities limited if you are collaborating with others, across institutions and countries?

The use of AI. Speaking of accessing large amounts of data, what is the current situation on intellectual property and generative AI? What do you need to know about legal implications where use of AI is involved?

These questions are not here to overwhelm you but to highlight areas where we can offer you support, training, and opportunities for discussion. To know more:

Get involved!

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Have you seen our new UCL Citizen Science website pages?

By Harry, on 15 August 2023

Guest post by Sheetal Saujani, Citizen Science Coordinator

We are pleased to launch our new and improved Citizen Science web pages on UCL’s Office for Open Science and Scholarship website. You can now access the updated content and browse what UCL is doing in this fast-growing and exciting area!

Citizen science includes a wide range of activities, and it is gaining increasing recognition among the public and within the area of research. UCL recognises citizen science as a diverse practice, encompassing various forms, depths and aims of collaboration between academic and community researchers and various disciplines.

workshop meeting
Check out our new website pages:

  • Defining Citizen Science: whether you call it participatory research, community action, crowdsourcing, public engagement, or anything else, have a look at our word cloud showing various activities and practices falling under one umbrella. UCL teams are collaborating on different projects and working together under a joint mission to strengthen UCL’s activities. This fosters stronger connections and more collaborative solutions.
  • Citizen Science projects: discover the broad range of innovative projects at UCL (grouped by discipline) showcasing various ways to use a citizen science approach in research. If you have a citizen science project to feature or have any questions, please contact us.
  • History of Citizen Science: explore the exciting history of citizen science, early definitions, and three relevant periods in modern science. Learn about one of the longest-running citizen science projects!
  • Types and levels of Citizen Science: read about the growth of citizen science, which has led to the development of three broad categories: ‘long-running citizen science’, ‘citizen cyberscience’, and ‘community science’. Citizen science practices can be categorised into a continuum using the ‘Doing It Together Science’ escalator model. This model focuses on individual participation levels, allowing individuals to choose the best level for their needs, interests, and free time.
  • UCL Citizen Science Certificate: find out about this high-quality, non-academic certification awarded to individuals who complete a training programme as part of the UCL Citizen Science Academy. The Certificate recognises research abilities through participation in active projects, enabling citizen scientists to influence local decisions.

The Office for Open Science and Scholarship is working to raise awareness of citizen science approaches and activities to build a support service and a community around citizen science.  We are bringing together colleagues who have run or are currently running citizen science projects, to share experiences and encourage others to do the same.

If you are interested in citizen science, we would like to hear from you, so please get in touch by email openscience@ucl.ac.uk and tell us what you need.